Microsoft has bid $1.2 billion to buy a Norwegian business search software company.

According to Reuters, the computing giant offered a 42% premium for Fast Search & Transfer, which provides services to help corporations manage and sift through their own files.

Fast is currently the second-largest search provider, which as well as providing data search tools also provides search engines to help consumers navigate their clients' websites.

The deal would see Fast's search technologies marketed around the world, Fast Chief Executive John Lervik said.

Fast posted a third-quarter loss of more than $100 million on revenue of nearly $36 million. Its clients include Dell Inc and Walt Disney Co.

The Norwegian company's board is reported to have unanimously recommended that shareholders accept the Microsoft offer, which values the fully diluted equity of Fast at 6.6 billion Norwegian crowns, or about $1.2 billion.

Microsoft is not alone in recognising this growth area.

In recent years, larger technology industry players such as Google, International Business Machines Corp and Microsoft have started to move into the corporate, or enterprise, search market leading to a host of acquisitions.

Fast shares, which were suspended all day on Monday, jumped to the bid level of 19 crowns per share and then eased off to 18.80 crowns. The bid price is 42% higher than Fast's closing share price on 4 January, the last day on which the company traded.

Shareholders with 37% of Fast's stock, which includes its two biggest institutional investors - Orkla and Hermes Focus Asset Management Europe - have agreed to accept the offer, according to statements by both Microsoft and Fast.

However, the deal is subject to regulatory approval and acceptance from shareholders with more than 90% of Fast's shares, Fast added.

Microsoft said it expects the transaction to be completed in the second quarter of this year.

"We think (enterprise search) will be for workers what Internet search is for consumers today", said Microsoft business division president Jeff Raikes on a conference call with reporters and analysts.

Raikes also mentioned that Fast's enterprise search is a natural fit with Microsoft's collaboration software SharePoint, a fast-growing segment of the company's Office business.

The news pushed shares of Autonomy Corp Plc, a British rival of Fast and reportedly the top player in the market, up 9%.

Microsoft shares fell $1.17 cents to $33.44 on Nasdaq.